Athlon Sports Preseason All-Conference Honors Awarded to Dukes in Dozens

On May 25, 2023, Athlon Sports announced that 11-man James Maddison would be joining the team as the organization rolls out its preseason All-Sun Belt conference team for the 2023 season. JMU student-athletes received 12 preseason honors this week. Heading JMU’s list was a quartet of First Team All-Sun Belt winners: defensive lineman James Carpenter, offensive lineman Nick Kidwell, punter Ryan Hanson, and linebacker Taurus Jones.

The second team consisted of receiver Reggie Brown, offensive lineman Tyler Stevens, and linebacker Jaylin Walker. Third team honors go to versatile running back Kayron Black, tight end Zach Horton, and offensive lineman Tanner Morris, while Josh Surratt receives force team honors as both safety and punt returner.

Carpenter, who earned Second Team All-Sun Belt and VaSID First Team All-State honors, started all 11 games at nose guard last season. He recorded 52 tackles, 11.5 tackles, and 5.5 sacks. Stevens and Morris started all 11 games, while Kidwell started nine at right tackle. Kidwell was a Second Team All-Sun Belt honoree and took home First Team All-State honors.

This group contributed to JMU’s 13th place in the nation with 37.0 points per game and 1st place in points per game in the Sun Belt. Dukes ranked 29th on FBS and 3rd on SBC in total attack power (452.5). JMU also led the conference and ranked 7th nationally in completion yards (14.52). Meanwhile, the passing average (265.7) ranked third in the Sun Belt, and the rushing average (186.7) was fourth.

Hanson joined the program in the spring after spending the past three seasons at rival Arkansas State SBC. Jones was the third-team All-Sun Belt linebacker in his first season as a starter in 2022. Brown is JMU’s leading returner in the wide receiver room and will end his first season as a primary starter. Walker, who was named All Sun Belt Honorable Mention in 2022, started at the linebacker position and had a solid first year.

Black returned from a late-season injury last year, starting at running back and appearing in nine games. Horton started all five games and appeared in all 11 games before the season, making him JMU’s top tight end returner in 2023. While serving as JMU’s main punt returner in 2022, Surratt appeared in all 11 games, playing 10 with safety starts.

The league’s official preseason all-conference team will be announced ahead of the Sunbelt Conference Media Days in New Orleans on July 25 and 26.

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